Why Atenas?


IGLESIA DE ATENAS.JPGAs mentioned in early blogs, it is important to really think about the location where you choose to settle, especially if you are buying.  I thought I would go into a little more depth about why I made the decision, 17 years ago, to move to Atenas.  More important, why I chose to stay and make it my home for all these years.

1)      The Best Climate in the World?  Okay, you can debate this all day, but let’s face facts, the weather isn’t too bad.  Ranging from 60 F as a low in the night to 90 F as a high, it’s way better than tornados and ice storms.  It’s not as hot as the beach (while being only an hour away) and even in the rainy season, it’s usually sunny in the morning.  So, the climate is definitely not a reason to leave.

2)      The Best Community.  This is a community that gathers together in hard times and in good.  Most of the locals are related in one way or another and they have been very welcoming to me and most foreigners.  The ex-pats that live here are also not here for the short-term.  People don’t come to Atenas for a party like you see at the beach.  They come to be a part of this community and the positives are everywhere, with groups that benefit the children’s home, abandoned animals, and more.

3)      Small town feel.  Maybe this comment belongs up in #2, but I love that it takes me 20 minutes to walk 3 blocks because everyone greets you all along the way and wants to talk.  It makes me feel included and at home.  You just don’t get that in the city.  People are also really happy to help.  They want to help you get where you are going or help you find the right person to fix your car.  People know you by name and the waiters know your favorite meal.

4)      Security.  I’m not going to say that nothing bad ever happens in our quiet little town, but the crime rate is low.  My children grew up playing in the central park and I never had to worry because everyone there knew who they belonged to and were always watchful to keep all of the children safe. 

5)      Simplified living.  Bigger is better, more is better?  Not in Atenas.  It’s still a simplified lifestyle where things are just things.  Parts of Costa Rica have evolved into consumerism but Atenas is still very traditional where time with family is more important than having the latest gadget or the biggest home.

6)      Family is first.  Tying in with the previous comment, family absolutely comes in first.  To the disappointment of big business, it is very important that parents are there for their children.  I am still amazed at men who are out in the afternoons taking care of children or teenage boys watching their little siblings.  I’m not saying it doesn’t happen elsewhere, but it’s just so common here that it’s an incredible feeling.  My children have had the unique opportunity to grow up truly bilingual and bicultural and feel that the whole community loves them and is raising them.

7)      Great schools.  In addition to the public school system, Atenas has two private elementary schools and two private high schools.  They are absolutely top level education and at less than half the cost of private schools in San Jose or the U.S.  The schools are small and so the teachers can personally guide the kids and be a significant part of their lives.  

8)      Pura Vida.  The good life, the living in the moment, the taking time out to smell the roses.  However you want to translate it, it requires patience.  For me, this has been one of the most difficult things about living in Costa Rica, but at the same time, my family in the States comments that I have become way more patient and tolerant.  I still have a long way to go, but I am adapting.

9)      Location.  Atenas is 25 minutes (avoiding rush hour) to a major mall and one of the top private hospitals and an hour to the beach.  It is 30-40 minutes to the SJO international airport and will be about 20 minutes to the new airport in Orotina which will be going in soon.  It is considered a bedroom community because many people prefer to live here in the small town and commute to San Jose to work. Flights to/from Houston are about 3 ½ hours and Miami is even closer.

10)   Great commuter bus system.  I’ve been in buses all over Costa Rica and the Atenas Coopetransatenas buses are the nicest.  They go about every hour (more often in the mornings) and if you have to go into the center of San Jose, there is no easier way to travel.  Even though I have my own car, when I have to get in and out of the San Jose business district, I take the bus.

11)   I meant to stop at 10 but this last one is important.  Cost of living?  There has a been a lot of complaints about how expensive Costa Rica is getting.  In many ways, that’s true.  Food, electronics, and cars are more expensive, even up to twice as pricey.  However, services are still cheaper.  My dentist cleans my teeth for $30, a private doctor visit is $50, and a massage is $30.  I can enjoy those “luxury” items that I could never do in the States.  I can have my nails done for $6-8 with hand painted designs.  Because of the weather, I don’t need air conditioning or heating, making my monthly electric bill only $30/month.  So, I think it balances out and I have learned to avoid some of the more expensive things or just accept that I really want it no matter the cost.  It is tropical Costa Rica so I have to remember that I can’t compare it with Oklahoma, but need to compare it to Hawaii.  When you think of it that way, the cost of living is not too bad.

These are just my reasons why I love it here.  Whether others disagree or have other personal reasons, this is what I love. 

Oops, one final thought…not only does Costa Rica not even have a military, it is so off the grid when it comes to international politics that terrorism hasn’t located us (and we hope it won’t anytime soon) and that makes it a great place for everyone to come and visit.  So, come on down!

For questions about living in Atenas or Costa Rica, feel free to contact Tina through tina@tnrealestatecr.com or on the Facebook page “Tristan & Newton”.  



Negotiating a contract

When buying or selling a house, everything is up for negotiation.  How much you can get in a negotiation is the result of what you ask, how you ask it, and the timing.

First you have to know your market.  Is it a seller’s market with few homes on the market or is it a buyer’s market with lots of homes to choose from?  A buyer’s market will give more leverage on the buyer side for negotiation.  A Realtor who knows the market is going to be able to help you the most here by knowing whether something is priced right.  They often may know the current situation of the seller (whether or not they need to sell) which will affect how much negotiation will be allowed.

Can only the price be negotiated?  Not at all.  In addition to the price, you can negotiate on furniture, closing costs, and closing dates.  However, if you are able to offer a cash deal or a quick close, then you are going to have more leverage in negotiating on other things.  It’s good to ask, but it’s also good to know when to stop. If a buyer keeps asking for more and more things, it is likely the seller will get upset and will end the negotiations completely.

It’s also a matter of Murphy’s law that no offer will come in on a house for months and then when the first one hits, two more will hit at the same time.  Therefore if you really like the house, don’t get too obnoxious.   Move fast, ask your requests, and get it signed.  Nothing is set until all is agreed and signed. 

Make it personal, but not too personal.  It’s good to let the owners know that this is the house for you so they feel good about giving it to you even if they have other offers.  However, if you are desperate, then the negotiation falls to the other side.  This is true on the seller’s side too.  The more desperate you are to sell, the more you will have to be willing to negotiate to close the deal.  Think like a businessperson, not an owner or potential owner.

The costs of not negotiating are high.  Many times an offer comes in too low and the owners just say “no”.  In a buyer’s market especially, that is a bad idea.  Come back with some sort of counteroffer.   At least let the buyer know you are willing to negotiate.  Think about the costs of keeping your home on the market, the upkeep and general maintenance, and having it ready to show at any minute.  Ask yourself – is it going to cost you more to turn something down while you wait for another offer? 

A good Realtor will be able to help you keep your emotions in check during this process as well as give negotiating ideas.  When two people really want the deal, a deal can be made. 

See our website for details on great Costa Rica properties and our Facebook site for quick updates.20160229_083028


Pricing Your Home to Sell

You will see properties “on the market” in Costa Rica which are advertised at outlandish prices just in case someone comes along and decides that they love the property so much that they are willing to pay anything to have it. The seller is thinking “Of course someone would be willing to pay a million dollars for my one-acre lot next to the soccer field.” And then they wait for that unsuspecting buyer to show up.

However, you likely fall into the category of seller like the majority who really do need to sell and soon. That is why it is so it’s important to know how to price your property.  This is where a good Realtor can help you determine the value of your property. And that can mean the difference between your property selling relatively quickly or sitting on the market for years. 

Timing is everything.  Just because the market last year was moving doesn’t mean it is like that this year, so you have to be willing to adjust to that and other factors.

1)       Pricing based on market value.  In the States, agents pull up comparatives on the MLS (multiple listing system) and see what similar properties have sold for in the last six months or so.  In Costa Rica, we have the MLS, but it doesn’t have the final selling price, just the current listing price, so it’s a little harder.  Someone can, and should, check what comparable properties are currently listed but it is important to know how long that has been listed at that price and if it is priced right to begin with.  A Realtor who knows the market can help you with that.

2)      Pricing based on construction values.  What would your house cost today if someone went and bought a similar lot and then built the same home?  Because that is also your competition.  Buyers can say, “Well, I can build a brand-new house for cheaper than buying this one that is already 10 years old.”  Again, a Realtor who has knowledge of construction values can help you here.

3)      Other considerations—how fast do you need to sell your home?  The more patient you are, the more likely you will find a buyer at your price.  The more desperate you become, the more likely you will take a hit on the price, selling at below the value.  Also, what do you have to get out of your home?  Now, this is NOT what you WANT to get out of your home, but what do you NEED to cover mortgages and commissions?  Just because the market went up in the past does not mean that you might not lose money on your home in a down market.

4)      Finally, do you price for negotiating room?  Everyone loves to bargain and get a good deal.  So, should you price it above to give you that cushion?  There are different opinions on that and to be honest, it depends a lot on the culture.  Some cultures consider negotiating $10,000 to be a large amount and for some, they would start at half price.  My suggestion is to price based on the first two pricing considerations above, possibly with a small amount for negotiation to make everyone happy in the end, but to not inflate your price because it may deter buyers completely.

In the end, hire a good, experienced Realtor and then listen to them.  An agent knows what is selling and is not emotionally attached to your home.  Even as an agent, I like to take fellow agents along to show them the home after listing and ask their opinions on the pricing.  It can either open my eyes to issues I did not see in the home or confirm my evaluation. 

Look for future articles on negotiating your contract.  Check out the Tristan & Newton website for properties and the Chamber of Realtors MLS at http://mls.mls-cr.com/ The MLS listings are also on http://www.realtor.com/international too.  Follow us on Facebook for the most up to date information!

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Location, Location, Location

Location, location, location—as  they say , the three most important things in real estate.  So, where do you start?  First, you’ve decided to come to Costa Rica.  I hope you’ve at least visited a few times first and for many, renting for a little while is a good way to start.  Costa Rica is a beautiful and wonderful country, but you have to understand that it isn’t the U.S.  Pura Vida is not for everyone. So, once you’ve tested it out, then what?  Pick a town or area.  Do you want city or small town?  Do you want beach atmosphere, mountain living, or somewhere in between.  Of course, my personal favorite is Atenas with the small town, traditional Costa Rican feel, but only 25 minutes away from the mall and an hour from the beach. Whichever city you choose, you should consult someone or several “someones” who have been there long enough to guide you in the next steps.  Now, you have to choose an area of town.  You might not think it is important in a small town, but you have to evaluate whether you like the security of a residential community or prefer to be mixed in more with the local community.  Both have their benefits.  Residential communities are surrounded by nice properties, but don’t have a lot of the traditional feel.  On the other hand, community living is wonderful, but barking dogs and roosters are a common part of the package.  Knowing where water or internet is available is crucial too.  Know where power lines are going in and where expansions might put you up against the main road.  Which schools are close by and would be convenient enough to get to?  These are only a few examples of things you should consider.   Check out the website http://www.tnrealestatecr.com and follow us on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tnrealestatecr/ for continued updates on new properties.

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Note:  Tina has been a resident of Atenas for 17 years and raised two children there.  She is always glad to answer any questions about the town or culture in addition to real estate issues through Tristan & Newton.  Email at tina@tnrealestatecr.com.